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Symphony Orchestra and Glee Club present fall concerts

Tae Andrews | Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra and the Notre Dame Glee Club will perform their respective annual fall concerts tonight and tomorrow night in the Leighton Concert Hall in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

The Symphony Orchestra’s repertoire includes all ballet music this year, including Tchaikovsky’s famous “Nutcracker” Suite and Copland’s “Rodeo.” The program also features “Invitation to the Dance,” a lesser-known ballet by Carl Maria von Weber, one of Beethoven’s younger contemporaries, who was 15 years his junior.

“I wanted to do a ballet concert with the orchestra centered on the ‘Nutcracker’ Suite,” said conductor Daniel Stowe in an email Monday, “and I thought the Copland ‘Rodeo’ music would be a good pairing.”

The show will feature four selections from the ballet, concluding with the famous “Hoe-Down” music. Both suites run about 25 minutes.

Stowe said he chose the Nutcracker set for the quality of its music in addition to its status as a popular winter music suite.

“The ‘Nutcracker’ Suite, for all its familiarity, is just a joy to play because of the tremendous quality of Tchaikovsky’s craftsmanship in writing for the orchestra,” Stowe said. “I think Tchaikovsky is very much underrated by many critics in this respect.”

He went on to say that he selected the Copland ballet songs because they allow the orchestra to show a different aspect of its versatility that it doesn’t normally get to demonstrate.

“The Copland really swings, too,” Stowe said. “Orchestras don’t actually get much of an opportunity to swing like a big band, but they do in this piece.”

In addition to conducting the nearly 80 members of the Symphony Orchestra, Stowe also conducts the 55 voices of the Notre Dame Glee Club. Unlike the orchestra’s all-ballet lineup, Stowe says the Glee Club concert has no real theme, featuring a first half of classical music and a second half of spirituals, folk songs, barbershop pieces and Notre Dame songs. The Undertones, the 12-member a cappella group made up of Glee Club members, will also perform during the second half.

“For the Glee Club, I always like to do some Renaissance sacred music in each program,” Stowe said. The first half of the concert includes music by Morales, La Rue and Josquin, in addition to 20th-century pieces by Poulenc, Distler and Biebl.

The Renaissance songs represent Stowe’s efforts to branch out and infuse the concert with variety, particularly among the works from the latter three artists. Poulenc’s four-piece set entitled “Laudes of St. Anthony” features what Stowe calls “very interesting harmony,” while three Distler pieces are poems by the German poet Eduard Moerike set to music. All three contrast in tone and quality, Stowe said.

In addition to the new songs, the Glee Club will also stick with tried-and-true numbers including Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria,” along with an arrangement of “Danny Boy” written for the Glee Club by 2000 Notre Dame graduate and former Glee Club member Patrick Quigley.

Stowe mentioned one type of music as a particular concert favorite.

“Barbershop is always great fun for singer and audience alike,” he said. The Biebl music is also popular, Stowe said.

In arranging the performances of both the Symphony Orchestra and the Glee Club, Stowe said his greatest challenge is creating concerts that appeal to both classical music aficionados and casual audience members.

“In assembling programs, one always aims to entertain, educate, and inspire performers and audience alike,” he said. “While it may be easier to appeal to a broader audience with the Glee Club, since [it] embrace[s] both popular and classical musical styles in [its] performances, I continually try to debunk the myth that classical music is by a bunch of dead guys and not relevant to us. I think it can speak to everyone, not just to the performers on stage.”

Contact Tae Andrews at [email protected]